Why Former Journalist Ngozi Ahanotu Launched A Search Engine Geared Toward The Black Community And Funded It Herself
Photo Credit: Ngozi Ahanotu

Why Former Journalist Ngozi Ahanotu Launched A Search Engine Geared Toward The Black Community And Funded It Herself

If you are on the hunt for Black-owned businesses, look no further than a search engine designed for its community.

On Ideation

Created by journalist Ngozi Ahanotu during the spring of 2021, Hiihat amplifies Black products, services, and news. An added benefit is that users do not have to insert keywords such as “Black-owned” or “African American” to find these resources. Ahanotu built the search engine because she often struggled to find current Black pioneers and businesses.

“I used to be frustrated with Black History Month because I feel like they were always telling the same stories about Madam C.J. Walker, Martin Luther King, Jr., and George Washington Carver,” Ahanotu told AfroTech exclusively. “I know these stories like the back of my hand to a point in high school, I remember I put this Facebook post up specifically writing where are the new Black-owned businesses and new Black pioneers that we should be looking for and learning about as young Black people? It can’t only be Mark Zuckerberg building Facebook. So, that’s the moment I remember collecting a lot of information and creating a small database just for myself.” 

On Funding

Ahanotu’s database eventually grew as she continued to add businesses she tried personally or businesses found through other Black-owned marketplaces. However, Ahanotu’s process was very tedious, and she wanted to build a faster solution to minimize the number of steps to get someone to purchase a product or service from the database.

Working alongside a Black software developer company, which she ironically found after filtering through 30 pages on Google, Hiihat launched in March 2021.

Over one year later, she told us the platform is fully functioning, with nearly 500,000 links built into the search engine. For Ahanotu, the extensive search engine may come at a cost, as it is self-funded. However, the efforts are worth it to ensure Black communities can have access to great experiences on a daily basis.

“One of the main reasons I’m okay with having gone this far to do this and spend all this money, because it’s self-funded from me freelancing and, and writing, is I have found that having something Black-owned or a whole line of Black-owned products in your life is really freeing,” Ahanotu said. “I want people, especially if they’re Black to have the same experience I had because we don’t always get to have those satisfying experiences on a regular basis. That’s what Hiihat could do because it is a bridge to make all those areas of your life led by Black-owned businesses while circulating the dollar a lot faster.”

On New Features

Since launching its platform, Hiihat has continued to find new ways to improve.

Earlier this year, a Places tab was added to the platform so users could locate brick-and-mortar locations and nearby services. In addition, to bolster businesses featured on the engine, the Click Coins program debuted last April. Businesses can receive more exposure supported by affordable advertising opportunities. 

“It’s an opportunity for Black-owned businesses and businesses that are targeting Black audiences to have a stake in what the community is searching for and being able to put their business at the forefront,” Ahanotu said.

Program For HBCU Students

The Click Coins program is run by the head of the sales team, which will also be launching a cohort welcoming Historically Black College and University (HBCU) students to ensure they can receive professional experience and further Hiihat’s commitment to connecting with more Black-owned businesses. 

“We want to give students the experience they need for the professional world while they’re still in school and to connect us on the ground to Black-owned businesses. The program we’re building out with the HBCU students will give them stipends and connect them with people that could either give them a job in the future or have an opportunity with us,” Ahanotu said.